Mouse urinary peptides provide a molecular basis for genotype discrimination by nasal sensory neurons

Nat Commun. 2013;4:1616. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2610.


Selected groups of peptides, including those that are presented by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins, have been proposed to transmit information to the olfactory system of vertebrates via their ability to stimulate chemosensory neurons. However, the lack of knowledge about such peptides in natural sources accessible for nasal recognition has been a major barrier for this hypothesis. Here we analyse urinary peptides from selected mouse strains with respect to genotype-related individual differences. We discover many abundant peptides with single amino-acid variations corresponding to genomic differences. The polymorphism of major urinary proteins is reflected by variations in prominent urinary peptides. We also demonstrate an MHC-dependent peptide (SIINFEKL) occurring at very low concentrations in mouse urine. Chemoreceptive neurons in the vomeronasal organ detect and discriminate single amino-acid variation peptides as well as SIINFEKL. Hence, urinary peptides represent a real-time sampling of the expressed genome available for chemosensory assessment by other individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Genotype*
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Mice
  • Nasal Mucosa / cytology*
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / urine*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*


  • Peptides